Elfyn Evans won Friday morning’s opening two speed tests of YPF Rally Argentina to lead Kris Meeke by 8.7sec in his Ford Fiesta.
Stage info: SS2 / SS3
SS2: San Agustin - Villa General Belgrano 1, 19.95km
This test is new for many, as it hasn’t been tackled since 2008. A tough new 3.20km section has been added at the start, featuring wide roads but with large chunks of bedrock breaking the surface. It becomes technical and twisty until 12km, at which point it opens out and becomes smoother with fast crests and flowing corners. It is one of the rally’s most picturesque tests, with stunning views of the Calamuchita Valley.
SS3: Amboy - Santa Monica 1, 20.44km
This famous stage is one of the rally’s highlights. It is blisteringly fast on mainly smooth and sandy roads. Even the tighter narrow sections are quick as they twist first one way and then the other as the road rises and falls on a bumpy surface. It ends with a spectacular flat-out blast via two sixth gear corners before jumping over the finish at a cattle grid.
Evans headed Meeke by 4.6sec through the opening stage from San Agustin to Villa General Belgrano and pulled out a further 2.3sec in the following Amboy - Santa Monica test.
“There was some road cleaning in the first one and that helped us,” said Evans. “I tried to keep it tidy in the next one. I’m struggling a little with the balance of the car but the tyres are working well.”
Meeke concurred with his fellow Briton. “The first stage was the only one in the loop where we’ll get the benefit of cleaning, there wasn’t any in the next one. I’ve only driven that stage once before so I’m happy with my time,” said the Citroën C3 pilot.
Jari-Matti Latvala settled into third, a further 12.1sec behind, but the Finn did not have a clean run. His Toyota Yaris bottomed out several times in fast compressions and finished Amboy with the front splitter missing.
Mads Østberg scored top six times in both stages to claim fourth in his Ford Fiesta. The Norwegian was 3.2sec behind Latvala and 0.1sec ahead of an unhappy Sébastien Ogier.
The Frenchman overshot a corner in the opener and slid into a ditch, damaging his Fiesta’s front right aero (pictured below). He was fourth in the next test despite struggling with the handling. “Missing aero doesn’t help but that’s not all. We need to work on the suspension,” he said.
Thierry Neuville was sixth, despite a broken front right damper in his Hyundai i20 Coupe, and it was also a disappointing morning for team-mates Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo.
A soft roll in the opener cost Paddon 2min 30sec, leaving the Kiwi with suspension problems and no engine cooling fan. Sordo was third in that test but stopped midway through Amboy to change a steering arm after clouting a stone. The Spaniard lost more than 11 minutes.
Ott Tänak struggled with his Fiesta’s handling in the opener but the Estonian changed the settings between stages and was much happier. Juho Hänninen lost his Yaris’ front splitter and a lack of power cost the Finn almost 90sec.